As someone who loves to explore the remote places that this planet has to offer, I feel so blessed to be able to travel and explore. From the rugged and remote places of northern Canada and Alaska to the south pacific I have hiked over mountains and across the tundra, winter camped in -30 degrees while photographing and I have been scuba diving in the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We live on such an amazing diverse planet! So many places, so little time. These adventures have taught me many lessons. First and foremost is to be as prepared as I can possibly be.
Simple lessons that I have often learned the hard way. What happens if you lose your passport? Do you have another form of picture ID with you? Which countries take American Express? Hotels often hold a “deposit” on your credit card. This is problematic when using a debit card! The gas stations in northern Canada are often unmanned and don’t take Amex. Problematic if you only have cash or and Amex card. The list goes on and on of things I have learned the hard way. Things I wish I had remembered to bring with me. So after several years, I started to assemble a master list of things not to forget. Most of the items are basic and you probably wouldn’t forget them. But when you are packing at the last minute, you may be surprised at what you may forget. Boots? Yes, I have forgotten my boots a time or two.
A friend of mine recently went on a moose hunting trip to a remote part of Alaska. He planned for months, balancing how much he needed vs how much he could take on the plane or the raft they were taking on their adventure. He shipped much of his gear ahead of time via USPS. Alaska can be an unforgiving place to get lost in. The weather changes are drastic. Excited for his adventure, he arrived in Alaska having thought every detail out thoroughly. They were to pick up the gear that they had shipped ahead of time at the post office, spend the night, and then catch their float plane the next morning to start their remote adventure. A great plan, at least until the lady that ran the post office decided she didn’t really want to open for them….or anybody else for that matter. He and his uncle spent over a week hunting moose in the middle of nowhere, with gear they borrowed from local residents who volunteered their belongings to two strangers because the post office manager didn’t want to open. A story he will not soon forget.
No amount of planning can make up for such drastic mishaps, but knowledge of your gear, what is critical to survive and what isn’t can save your life.
Many years ago, on a ten day adventure into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, we had one of our food packs stolen on the first night of our adventure. Someone cut it out of the tree we had hung it in to keep the bears out of it. Luckily we had spread our food out over 3 canoes, each pack having similar things in it. We ate a lot of fish on that trip, but nobody starved.
These are some extreme examples, but I have forgotten many things that would have been handy over the years. When my kids were little and started coming with on many of the adventures, I realized that I was no longer packing for one. Things that I could easily overcome when traveling by myself, were a bit more important when packing for a larger group, and thus I learned the importance of packing lists! As my kids got older, my lists changed and adapted. But before I leave on an adventure, I always go through my list. When I get back, I try to remember to add to my list anything that I wish I would have remembered.
One other thing I think I should add. Proper care of your gear is essential. When you get back from your trip check to make sure that things are properly cared for and stored. Boots oiled, tent repaired, camera gear cleaned…..Things replaced and stored someplace they will be safe. I get my scuba dive gear inspected by a professional once a year at a minimum.
Years ago, I went on an ice fishing trip to a remote lake in Canada. My snowmobile and portable ice house were essential. I went through my checklist to make sure I had tools, oil, spare plugs, fishing tackle and rods, ice auger, warm clothes, helmet…..I had hung my canvas ice house on the wall in my garage the previous spring where it would be safe. When I opened it up on the lake with the wind blowing 30 mph, I realized that a mouse had gotten into the house and chewed holes in the canvas. Things happen.
I have included a copy of my master list below. Keep in mind that this is an “everything for all trips” list. I cross off things that I don’t need on individual trips and I add specific things for specific locations. I use it as a guideline. I keep things packed in totes for similar type trips. (camping totes, day hike totes, diving gear bag, camera suitcase……) It makes them easier to find at the last minute. I will explain more about my particular gear in posts to come.
Please feel free to share items on your list in the comment section, that I may have forgotten.
Happy and Safe Exploring!
Light for inside tent spotting scope/tripod
Frying pan soap/shampoo
Dish rag/soap towel
Coffee pot/cup rain coat/bibs
Can opener water shoes
Cook stove whistle
Propane canisters boot drier
Dry bag boat shoes/flip flops
Paper towels backpack(s)
Fire starter (cotton balls/Vaseline) backpack clips
Matches/lighter-in Ziploc bag misc batteries
Reusable plates battery chargers
Hot glove cell phone
Small burner GPS
Aluminum foil maps, maps, maps
Water carrying device headlamp
Water filter neoprene socks
First aid kit trekking poles
Sunglasses fleece coat
Utensils/cooking utensils knives (fillet, pocket, utility…)
Sleeping bag gloves/mittens
Pillow softside cooler
Fillet knife Ziploc bags
Tent (1,2,4,6man) garbage bags
Stakes/poles duct tape
Tarp electrical tape
Rope misc tools
Canoe/kayak/paddles spare plugs
Life jackets spare trailer tires/wrench
Tackle fishing net
Sunscreen bug spray
Compass water bottle
Headphones ear plugs
Cash reading glasses
Cool aid pks trail mix
Hats small saw
Hand warmers tow straps
Jumper cables snow shoes
Boots (hiking ,leather, waders…) gaiters (boot/neck)
Various coats long johns
Thermal shirts smart wool socks
Toilet paper passport/copy/ID’s
Zip ties chainsaw/gas/oil/sharpener/wrench
Camp shower/charger belt
Misc medical book to read/journal/pen
Spare charging battery/plug in paperwork on reservations
Flight/parking information sewing thread/needle
Binoculars coffee, cream, sugar
Food:see separate list credit cards/cash/exchange rate?
Camera Gear: Diving Gear:
2 slr bodies mask/swimsuit
Underwater camera snorkel/clips
Various Lenses/caps BCD
Tripod/ball head dive knife
Polarizers sea sick patches
Lens cloths dive computer
Trail cams regulator/bag
SD cards boots/hood
Misc cables mask defog
lap top/chords PADI cards/DAN card
Go pro/dive housing/misc mounts log book/flashlight
**This list doesn’t include various clothing items like pants, underwear, shirts- when exploring, I prefer pants or shorts with lots of pockets. Nor does it include many food items as I generally make a separate list for those.